Messaging to no one in particular

This is a hot topic for just about everyone in the tech industry. Get a product manager who thinks he has a great product into a room with a marketing manager who believes in benefits statements and see if anyone has a data-driven discussion about the buyer’s needs. I’m on a mission to harness the resources spent on making stuff up and reallocate all of this wasted time to understanding the buyer personas — the details about the target buyers that you are trying to reach. Is your current message likely to motivate your buyer to say, hey, I might want to do business with that company? Or does it sound like everyone else’s blah, blah, blah?

So I offer this recommendation to both product management and marketing. Stop arguing about who owns messaging — the reason this is so hard is neither of you really knows the people you’re trying to influence. You guys need to listen to your target buyers — not just customers, and not the people who are in the sales pipeline, but the people who should respond to your marketing programs and haven’t yet. These folks will tell you what matters most to them. Identify where your capabilities are closely aligned with the buyers’ needs, then feed their own words back to them and they’ll want to take the next step in the sales process.

If you listen carefully and consistently, you’ll begin to notice that different types of buyers have different priorities. Not to worry — you should develop different messaging for each type of persona and now you know which words to use.

I recently visited the Sugar CRM website and saw a series of demos for their Customer Relationship Management product, one for each of the five personas who influences the decision to buy. Navigation to these role-based demos is labeled for each buyer’s functional role — sales, marketing, support, executive and admin — a great example of the application of persona-based messaging. This website offers visitors a chance to hear how this single solution addresses the needs of whichever buyer persona lands there, and as a bonus, SugarCRM can readily measure which of their target influencers is spending the time to listen to their message.

Take a few minutes to evaluate your message as if you were a particular buyer who influences your buying decision. Open your favorite search engine and type in the words or phrases your buyer might use. Visit your site and the others that have high rankings. Is it easy for your buyer to discover your solution and connect it to his priorities? If your message isn’t readily accessible and targeted to the needs of this buyer, it doesn’t matter that you have a great product. Very few buyers will wait around to hear the rest of the story.

November 13, 2006
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  1. Nice job Adele. I look forward to reading your thoughts. Blog on. David

  2. Martha Lubow says:

    I like the demo by person idea a lot. My problem with the SugarCRM site, is that I had a hard time finding the demos (my eye did not go to the top level navigation at first). I am wondering if you could point me to any web sites that get right into personas on the Home Page. Or, could you suggest the best place where you drill into personas on a web site? Under product? Under Customers? Under what???? Thanks so much.

  3. Adele Revella says:

    Great question, Martha.
    Putting persona navigation on the home page only works for companies where the target audience is very focused — there usually isn’t enough real estate there. One example of this option is http://www.esri.com. But note that they still maintain traditional navigation for people who know where they want to go. That is very important. Note also this example at http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com. Visitors can navigate to solutions for product management or product marketing, which is another way to think about personas.
    There is no single best practice for where to use persona navigation. Most companies put it at the product or solution level, or on special purpose sites built for campaigns.

  4. Andy Church says:

    Salesforce.com lays out content by personas: business managers, IT professionals and Developers. Simple and effective IMHO.

  5. I think your title of “Messaging to no one in particular” says it all. In a guest post at http://www.fearlesscompetitor.com an article on website content says that website visitors like to look at a mirror of themselves. This is why the more you can personalize the website, the more effective it will be. Granted, with limited real estate, that’s not easy to do. But it is highly effective.
    Keep up the great writing, Adele.
    Jeff Ogden, President
    Find New Customers

  6. Darrin Stock says:

    Can you recommend a template for Product Marketers and Product Managers to use when building buyer personnas? Your blogs have recommended methods and sources of information, but I’m looking for something that pulls it all together. Thanks.

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